Robert Powell, USA Truck co-founder, has died

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 2,305 views 

Robert Powell (right) with a USA Truck driver. (photo from USA Truck)

Robert Powell, a U.S. Navy fighter pilot, an officer of what was then Arkansas Best Corp., and co-founder of Van Buren-based USA Truck, has died. He was 87.

In 1983 after a twenty-year career with Arkansas Best Corp., Powell and a group of managers purchased the company’s truckload division, Crawford Produce. Powell led the renaming of Crawford Produce to USA Truck, and he led the 1992 initial public offering of the common stock, which still trades on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol USAK. He served USA Truck as chairman, director, president and CEO until his retirement in 2011.

USA Truck has a market capitalization of $139.2 million, with more than 2,200 employees, just under 2,000 active tractors, and more than 30 locations in North America.

“Mr. Powell was known and admired for his dedication, commitment, and vision. He understood the challenges of the transportation industry and leveraged his military background to establish USA Truck as an industry leader. Throughout his distinguished career, he served the trucking industry in many capacities, such as representing the state of Arkansas as Vice President of the American Trucking Association in Washington D. C., serving as the President of the Arkansas Trucking Association, and the Chairman of the Arkansas Motor Carriers Association,” noted a statement from USA Truck.

Bill Hanna, president and CEO and board chairman of Fort Smith-based Hanna Oil and Gas Company and Hanna Oil and Gas Company-Canada, served on the USA Truck board of directors with Powell. Hanna’s father, Jim, served on the USA Truck board in its early years.

“Bob was one of a kind. I’ll miss him. He and my dad were best buddies and dad served on that board (USA Truck board of directors) with Bob … and then I had the chance to serve on that board with Bob,” Hanna told Talk Business & Politics.

Hanna said Powell was a “tough, old-school” trucking company boss who was respected by everyone at “every level” of the company.

“He was tough. He had a lot of respect from just about everybody in that business. And he was a driver’s CEO. He loved those guys and they connected with him. He had deep relationships with the drivers and the mechanics,” Hanna said.

USA Truck President and CEO James Reed said the company reestablished a relationship with Powell in recent years and welcomed him and his family to the corporate offices during the USA Truck Founders Day event.

“It was beautiful to recognize his accomplishments as a wonderful husband, father, industry leader, and visionary founder who gave so much of himself. Mr. Powell touched the lives of countless people; we are honored to have been among them. We offer our condolences and gratitude to the Powell family,” Reed noted in a statement.

Link here for Powell’s obituary.